My press contact just sent me a high resolution image of the Entertainment Weekly cover which features J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek”. Click the image to view the full size.
After 10 often dismal movies, Star Trek had turned into a pop culture punchline. Even people who’d built their entire careers around Trek could see the writing on the wall. “Star Trek,” says Leonard Nimoy, “had run its course.” But director J.J. Abrams believes he can make the franchise cool again. This week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly has the inside scoop on Abrams’ surprising, idealistic odyssey, which could become next summer’s multiplex juggernaut.
“I don’t think people even understand what Star Trek means anymore,” says Abrams, who saw the first Star Trek film in 1979 with his father at a theater on the Paramount lot. But he feels no warm-fuzzy nostalgia about it. In fact, Abrams can sum up his regard for Trek in two words: Galaxy Quest, the 1999 hit starring Tim Allen that satirized Trek with painful precision. “It’s so ridiculous, so accurate, so sophisticated, it spoils the Star Trek universe,” he says. Plus, at heart, Abrams is still more of a Star Wars guy. “All my smart friends liked Star Trek,” he says. “I preferred a more visceral experience.” Which is exactly why he accepted Paramount’s offer in 2005 to develop a new Trek flick; creatively, he was engaged by the possibility of a Star Trek movie “that grabbed me the way Star Wars did.”
Abrams says he was also drawn to the project because he believed in—and wanted to evangelize—Trek’s unabashed idealism. “I think a movie that shows people of various races working together and surviving hundreds of years from now is not a bad message to put out right now,” says Abrams. That ethos may seem cornball to an America darkened by a decade’s worth of catastrophe, but after an election season that has seen both presidential nominees run on “hope” and “change,” Star Trek just may find itself on the leading wave of a zeitgeist shift—away from bleak, brooding blockbusters and toward the light. “In a world where a movie as incredibly produced as The Dark Knight is raking in gazillions of dollars, Star Trek stands in stark contrast,” Abrams says. “It was important to me that optimism be cool again.”
Is the world ready again for Trek’s optimistic vision of the future? Some involved with the film suspect the presidential election may have a dramatic effect on how Star Trek will be perceived. “This is a franchise that offers hope for unity—and so does Barack Obama,” says Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock. “When this movie comes out, and Obama is president, hopefully there will be some parallels.” Perhaps, but the elder Spock knows that moments of unity can be fleeting. “My only regret is that the movie can’t come out sooner,” Nimoy says. “I think the world could use it. Don’t you?”
While Nimoy will be putting on his ears to play a wizened Spock in the new Star Trek, don’t expect a cameo by William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Last month, the 77-year-old actor posted a video on YouTube, complaining about being left behind, and chastising Abrams, even though Shatner’s Kirk died in Star Trek Generations (1994). “I brought him back to life in one of my books, very easily,” Shatner tells Abrams in the video. “I’m just sorry that I’m not in your wonderful movie.”
Abrams has seen the video, of course. “I don’t know how my life has become a thing where William Shatner talks to me through YouTube,” Abrams tells EW. “I was such a huge fan of his, but we wrote a scene for him in the movie and it didn’t feel right. And he said to us—he said publicly—that doing a cameo didn’t interest him. Which I totally appreciate. But we did try.” EW tried to reach Shatner, but he declined to be interviewed. Through a spokesperson he said, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to be involved in the Star Trek universe at this point.”